Capacity building spurs upstream spending

27 April 2023


The Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, where a third of the world’s crude oil and about a quarter of its natural gas is produced, is increasing its hydrocarbons production potential.

There are an estimated $113.6bn-worth of upstream oil and gas projects in the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) execution stage in the Mena region, according to data from regional projects tracker MEED Projects. 

Most of these schemes are set to be commissioned between this year and 2025, helping the region to consolidate its position as the largest producer of crude oil, natural gas and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

With the world still heavily reliant on hydrocarbons, and green energy sources falling short of meeting global energy needs, oil and gas producers in the region see more merit in investing in building upstream production potential.

Regional oil and gas industry leaders have been making the case for increasing spending on boosting hydrocarbons output capacity. Their purpose has been to draw the world’s attention to the role of fossil fuels as a bridge to achieving a clean energy transition, as well as to justify their major upstream capital expenditure (capex) programmes.

Saudi Arabia dominates

Saudi Aramco tops MEED’s ranking of state energy enterprises in the Mena region by the volume of upstream oil and gas projects under EPC execution, with nearly $41bn-worth of project value.

Aramco aims to increase its maximum oil output spare capacity to 13 million barrels a day (b/d) by 2027 from about 12 million b/d currently. It also plans to raise gas production by 50 per cent by the end of this decade. 

With a large portion of its under-execution projects expected to come online by the middle of this decade, the Saudi energy giant appears to be on track to meet its strategic output goals.

The largest Saudi Aramco project under execution is the $3bn-plus Berri increment programme, which was awarded to Italian contractor Saipem in July 2019. Through the project, Aramco plans to add 250,000 b/d of Arabian light crude from the offshore oil and gas field.

The planned facilities will include a new gas oil separation plant (GOSP) on Abu Ali Island to process 500,000 b/d of Arabian light crude and additional processing facilities at the Khursaniyah gas plant to process 40,000 b/d of associated hydrocarbons condensates.

The Berri increment programme will complement Saudi Aramco’s $15bn Marjan field development programme, EPC contracts for which were also awarded in July 2019. The scheme is an integrated project for oil, associated gas, non-associated gas and cap gas from the Marjan offshore oil and gas field.

The Marjan development plan includes provision of a new offshore GOSP and 24 offshore oil, gas and water injection platforms. The contract for the main GOSP, which is worth $3bn and is the first EPC package of the project, was awarded to McDermott International. The US contractor also won offshore package four, which involves the building of offshore gas facilities and is valued at about $1.5bn.

The offshore development project aims to increase the production of the Marjan field by 300,000 b/d of Arabian medium crude oil, process 2.5 billion cubic feet a day (cf/d) of gas and produce an additional 360,000 b/d of ethane and natural gas liquids.

Looking ahead, Aramco expects capital expenditure in 2023 to be $45bn-$55bn, including external investments. This projected spending is at least 20 per cent higher than the company’s $37.6bn capex in 2022.

Qatar’s LNG expansion

With the goal of consolidating its position as the world’s largest supplier of gas, QatarEnergy continues to progress with its North Field LNG expansion programme. The project, which is estimated to be worth about $30bn, will increase Qatar’s LNG production to 126 million tonnes a year (t/y) in two phases by 2027.

The two-stage North Field Production Sustainability (NFPS) programme will run in parallel, to help maintain gas production from the offshore reserve in order to match the feedstock requirements of the LNG expansion scheme.

QatarEnergy led spending on upstream projects in 2022 for the second year in a row, accounting for more than a third of the $18.9bn EPC contract awards in the Mena region. The firm’s overall value of EPC projects under execution stands at $27.3bn, putting it in second place in MEED’s ranking of the biggest national oil companies by volume of under-execution projects.

Launched in 2017, the North Field East (NFE) project constitutes the first phase of QatarEnergy’s North Field LNG expansion project. As well as an LNG output of 32 million t/y, NFE will produce 4,000 tonnes a day (t/d) of ethane as feedstock for future petrochemicals developments, 260,000 b/d of condensates, 11,000 t/d of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and 20 t/d of helium.

The EPC works on QatarEnergy’s NFE project were divided into six packages – four onshore and two offshore – and are currently progressing. 

QatarEnergy awarded a $13bn contract for NFE package one to a consortium of Chiyoda and TechnipEnergies in February 2021. The package covers the EPC of four LNG trains, each planned to have an output capacity of about 8 million t/y. 

QatarEnergy’s largest award in 2022 was a $4.5bn EPC contract that was won by Saipem for the building and installation of two gas compression facilities as part of the second development phase of its NFPS project. The gas compression complexes covered in the package known as EPCI 2 will weigh 62,000 tonnes and 63,000 tonnes and will be the largest fixed steel jacket compression platforms ever built.

Abu Dhabi ambitions

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) adopted a five-year business plan in November last year that covers a capex budget of $150bn for 2023-27. The budget also sets the target of achieving its oil production capacity goal of 5 million b/d by 2027 rather than 2030.

The oil production increment projects that it has under execution are expected to play a key role in enabling the Abu Dhabi major to attain its accelerated oil capacity target.

The largest of Adnoc’s under execution projects is a $1.4bn EPC contract awarded to Spanish contractor Tecnicas Reunidas in late 2018 for upgrading the Bu Hasa onshore oil field development. Through this project, Adnoc plans to increase the Bu Hasa field’s production from 500,000 b/d to 650,000 b/d. 

On the gas production front – a core priority for Adnoc – $1.5bn-worth of EPC contracts were awarded to Abu Dhabi’s National Petroleum Construction Company (NPCC) and Tecnicas Reunidas in November 2021 for the offshore and onshore packages, respectively, of the Dalma sour gas field development project.

When completed in 2025, the project will enable the Dalma field to produce about 340 million cf/d of natural gas.

The Abu Dhabi energy giant further intends to raise its total gas output by 3 billion cf/d in the next few years. The Hail and Ghasha offshore sour gas production project will be central to achieving this goal.

In January, Adnoc signed pre-construction services agreements (PCSAs) with France-headquartered Technip Energies, South Korean contractor Samsung Engineering and Italy’s Tecnimont for the Hail and Ghasha onshore package. Saipem, NPCC and state-owned China Petroleum Engineering & Construction Company secured a PCSA for the offshore package.

While the onshore and offshore PCSAs awarded to the two consortiums by Adnoc are valued at $80m and $60m, respectively, the EPC packages are estimated to be worth $5.5bn and $5bn.

As part of the PCSAs, the contractors are required to perform initial detailed engineering and procurement for important long-lead items. 

Based on proposals to be submitted later this year, Adnoc is expected to award the same contractors the contracts for the main EPC works on the Hail and Ghasha project.

Production from the Ghasha concession, where the Dalma and Hail and Ghasha fields are located, is expected to start in 2025, ramping up to more than 1.5 billion cf/d before the end of this decade. 

Main image: Saudi Aramco tops the ranking of state energy enterprises in the Mena region with almost $41bn-worth of projects under execution. Credit: Aramco
Indrajit Sen
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